Leslie Thomson, a PhD candidate at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been awarded the 2017 ASIS&T Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Scholarship. Her proposal, “Investigating Information Creating and Informal Information Providing: A Grounded Theory Study of the Information Practices and Role of Serious YouTubers,” was nominated by her advisor Dr. Barbara Wildemuth. The scholarship includes a $1,500 award and $500 of travel support for attending the ASIS&T annual meeting.
According to the announcement from ASIS&T, the scholarship jury praised Thomson’s proposal as a thoroughly original, well-conceived study in information seeking research. The jury concluded unanimously that the results would be impactful and make a meaningful contribution to knowledge in the field.
Thomson’s dissertation research focuses on the information-creating practices of serious YouTubers in the beauty and lifestyle sector. Thomson said a “serious YouTuber” is someone who regularly uploads original videos created entirely or at least primarily by themselves. The videos concentrate on a focal area or a handful of related areas in which the YouTuber has a personal interest. Furthermore, Thomson said, serious content creators actively work to engage a community of viewers and cultivate a sub-community of dedicated regular watchers. As this level of commitment takes a good deal of time and resources, serious YouTubers have often found some way to monetize their postings.
A long-time casual YouTube watcher, Thomson became a more dedicated viewer after moving from Toronto to Chapel Hill to pursue her doctoral degree. “I got really into watching specific people and following all of their videos and became interested in their lives,” she said. “I realized there were whole communities forming around these everyday people, and I thought that was an interesting phenomenon.”
YouTube has plenty of content in the beauty and lifestyle sector – over 1.8 million videos focused exclusively on beauty had been posted by 2015 – but Thomson said the area has not been as well explored as other leisure fields like collecting or cooking.
Through her research, Thomson seeks to learn more about information creating, an area that she says has been understudied, especially outside of the workplace and schools.
“We don’t know a lot about information creating as a practice and detailed process when it happens of people’s own volition, in their leisure time, as something they enjoy and something they’re doing for themselves,” she said. “That’s the main thrust of my research.”